Nobody knows where Marc-Andre Fleury will be playing next season. But it probably won't be in Pittsburgh or Las Vegas.
There’s probably no NHL player surrounded with more intrigue when it comes to the machinations of the expansion draft than Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. But there are two destinations in the league where Fleury almost certainly will not be next season. The first is Las Vegas. The second is Pittsburgh.
Now there are all kinds of interesting scenarios that could play out here that would allow the Penguins to keep both Fleury and Matt Murray. The one that would make the most sense would be for the Penguins to persuade Fleury to waive his no-movement clause for purposes of the expansion draft and expose him in the proceedings, but offer Vegas compensation – something in the range of a second-round pick – to choose someone from their roster other than Fleury.
And according to deputy commissioner Bill Daly, that will be completely above board. In an email to thn.com, Daly explained that the 66 players who have been identified as having no-movement contracts could be exposed in the expansion draft if they agree to waive them. Should the Penguins do that, it would allow them to protect Murray and expose Fleury without risking losing him.
What would be in it for Vegas to agree to such a deal? Well, it would guarantee itself a second-round pick, since there would be nothing preventing the Penguins from dealing Fleury to another team just before the expansion draft. If that were to happen, Vegas would miss out on both the chance to get Fleury and it wouldn’t have the extra pick.
Now that’s all well and good, but that scenario would be predicated on both Murray and Fleury being amenable to splitting the duties in Pittsburgh, which is not something either of them would likely be inclined to do. Goalies want to play, and more importantly, know that they’re going to play regularly. At Fleury’s age and with his list of accomplishments behind him, it likely won’t be long before he starts getting a little antsy and wants to be somewhere where he can carry the goaltending load.
And there is a legacy to consider here, as well. Fleury is 31 years old and those who know him best think he could play until he’s 40. At the very least, he likely has four or five prime years left in him. He currently sits at 363 career wins. Catching Martin Brodeur’s 691 for the all-time lead is probably a pipe dream at this point, but finishing ahead of Patrick Roy’s 551 is certainly attainable. But that’s almost certainly not going to happen as long as he’s either splitting time with Murray or serving as his backup.
A player such as Hall of Famer Billy Smith comes to mind. Smith is regarded as one of the best money goalies of all-time and has four Stanley Cups and there was never any dispute the crease was his in the playoffs, but he’s nowhere to be found near the top of the all-time leaders in regular season wins, shutouts or appearances. That’s because he spent most of his prime years sharing the crease in the regular season with the New York Islanders, first with Chico Resch, then with Rollie Melanson and Kelly Hrudey. Clearly, he has regrets agreeing to that arrangement.
“That’s where I made my biggest mistake,” Smith once told me. “I think that’s where it hurt me big-time. I should have made Al (Islanders’ coach Arbour) play me more. I think it was much tougher for me to play every second game than to play every night.”
And it’s for that reason that there’s a pretty good chance Fleury will be dealt this season. But it will not come as a surprise to Fleury, who holds down a special place in the history of the Penguins franchise and he will be treated with the utmost respect through the process. In short, the Penguins will do right by Marc-Andre Fleury. They think highly of him as a player and a person and appreciate that he has taken the high road during a difficult time. Both sides have been in constant communication over the past couple of months and there is no way a trade would be sprung on Fleury without him having a significant amount of input.
Fleury’s contract contains a no-trade clause that he submits to the Penguins every June 15 and remains in effect for the entire next season. On that list are 18 teams to which he would accept a trade. So theoretically, the Penguins could trade him to any one of those teams at any time this season. But it’s about finding the right fit at this point, so if the Penguins can work out a deal that will give Fleury a favorable situation with a team that is not on that list, there’s nothing preventing him from approving a trade there.
There’s really no rush here for anyone. The Penguins are fine at the moment with the situation as it stands. Probably the only thing that would speed up the process would be Fleury coming to Penguins management and asking for the situation to be resolved once and for all. Since Murray has returned to the lineup, Fleury has appeared in five of the Penguins’ 11 games, posting a 0-2-2 record with a .902 save percentage and 3.35 goals-against average. Prior to that when he basically had the net to himself, Fleury had a 6-1-2 record with a .909 save percentage and 3.10 GAA.
There is no timeline here, but don’t be surprised if this gets done sooner rather than later.